How Bush’s “Right of Conscience” Ruling Could Affect You
New legislation allows doctors and pharmacists to decide who gets what kind of care
In one of his final lame-duck maneuvers, George W. Bush pushed through his $44 million “Right of Conscience” regulation “allowing medical staff to refuse to participate in any practice they object to on moral grounds, including abortion but possibly birth control and other health care as well.”
That means that any medical professional – whether doctor, pharmacist, or attending nurse – can refuse you care if it goes against his or her conscience. And not just when it comes to abortions.
According to the LA Times, “For more than 30 years, federal law has dictated that doctors and nurses may refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further by making clear that healthcare workers also may refuse to provide information or advice to patients who might want an abortion.”
Bush is framing it as a measure to protect healthcare workers, but according to the Washington Post, “women’s health advocates, family planning proponents, abortion rights activists and some members of Congress condemned the regulation, saying it will be a major obstacle to providing many health services, including abortion, family planning, infertility treatment, and end-of-life care, as well as possibly a wide range of scientific research.”
Rape victims will also have a much harder time of things as experts say that “the regulation could also make it difficult for states to enforce laws such as those requiring hospitals to offer rape victims the morning-after pill.”
Not only that, the ruling would allow organizations to act as a sort of “conscience” for their workers. Meaning if Walgreens (just an example!) decides that birth control pills (or Viagra or antibiotics for that matter) are something they find morally abhorrent, you’ll have to look elsewhere, no matter how an individual pharmacist feels about the matter. This ruling also allows groups to redefine even common birth control methods – like the pill – as abortion so they can then refuse to provide them.
The incoming administration is most likely going to undo this act as soon as humanly – and humanely – as possible, but unless a bill introduced by Senators Patty Murray and Hillary Rodham Clinton repealing the rule passes, it could be a while. The House is also weighing such a measure.
It’s not just Democrats who are up in arms about this regulation. Bush appointee Reed Russell and two other members of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission objected, saying the proposal “would overturn 40 years of civil rights law prohibiting job discrimination based on religion.”